Zimbabwe’s opposition has said it refuses to “roll over and accept fictitious lies” after the country's president won a second five-year term in an election dismissed by critics as a sham.
Election officials said Emmerson Mnangagwa, 80, took 52.6 per cent of the vote compared with 44 per cent for the leader of the main opposition party, Nelson Chamisa.
Results were announced late on Saturday after an election that had seen voting held up by the late delivery of ballot papers and widespread allegations of voter intimidation.
Election observer missions said the vote had fallen short of international standards as voters were intimidated and the state apparatus threw its weight behind Mr Mnangagwa.
The southern African nation of 16 million went to the polls this week amid struggles to shake off two decades of economic crisis, which have led to triple-digit inflation and widespread unemployment.
Preliminary results also showed Mr Mnangagwa's ruling Zanu-PF party on track to regain control of the national assembly easily, but without the two-thirds majority, it would need to rewrite the constitution.
A party statement said: “Thank you, people of Zimbabwe, for putting your trust in the revolutionary party Zanu-PF for the new term ahead, as expressed through your huge endorsement for Comrade Emmerson Mnangagwa and his team.”
A spokesman for Mr Chamisa's Citizens' Coalition for Change party rejected the results and said the election had been “marred by vote suppression and egregious abuse”.
“Despite these overwhelming odds, the resilient Zimbabwean people came forward in vast numbers, casting their votes in hope of a brighter and better future. For the sake of that elder woman who walked 2km and waited in line for two whole days to cast her vote, we will not rollover and accept fictitious lies,” Promise Mkwananzi said.
Yet the party did not immediately set out what action it would take next.
“In due course, we will address our nation, illuminating the path forward,” Mr Mkwananzi said.
EU observers said the election had been calm. But the use of repressive laws and instances of violence and intimidation ahead of polling had meant it was conducted in a “climate of fear”.
Bias in state media and the cancellation of opposition rallies meant the playing field was skewed towards the government. The EU mission also condemned the arrest of 41 local election observers.
The international community have keenly watched the election as both a test of Mr Mnangagwa's strength and a yardstick for whether the West should normalise relations after two decades of isolation.
Zimbabwe was made an international outcast after the country slid into authoritarianism under former president Robert Mugabe, and his policy of seizing white-owned farms tipped the country into near ruin.
Many in the country would like to end the isolation, with Zimbabwe currently attempting to rejoin the Commonwealth.
Ahead of the results, Jim Risch, a senior Republican member on the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called the election a sham.
“The government weaponised the judiciary, silenced the opposition, manipulated the accreditation of observers and created an unfair pre-election environment,” he said.
He said the US should “re-evaluate all facets of our relationship with a Zimbabwean government that ignores its people's will and flouts its laws through acts of violence, looting, and impunity”.
Mr Mnangagwa, a long-time ally and aide to Mr Mugabe, came to power in 2017 after ousting his former boss in an internal coup.
Nicknamed the Crocodile, Mr Mnangagwa represents the end of the liberation struggle generation that fought for Zimbabwe's independence from white rule.
He portrays himself as pro-business and has tried to ease laws holding back foreign investment to revive the country's agriculture.
The country still suffers from rampant inflation, with annual price rises currently running at around 100 per cent.
High unemployment has forced many to seek work in other countries, including South Africa, and the economy is heavily reliant on remittances.